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Best Workplaces 2022: Silver Lake Auto and Tire Centers

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SHOP STATS: Silver Lake Auto and Tire Centers  Location:  Four locations in Wisconsin  Owner: Dan and Darren Garlock Staff Size: 42   Average Monthly Car Count: 546  ARO: $950  Annual Revenue: $6.2 million

Growth is at the core of every decision Dan Garlock makes.

Personal growth. Growth within the community. Expanding current locations and adding new ones. And, most importantly, individual employee growth. 

Co-owner of Silver Lake Auto and Tire Centers, a four-shop operation in Wisconsin, with his brother Darren, the duo have guided the family-owned company from a single location into a network of shops with 42 employees generating more than $6 million annually. 

But the numbers aren’t the impressive part. What made them one of Ratchet+Wrench’s 2022 Best Workplaces is their actions with team members. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone with a bad word to say. 

“I’ve had other possible opportunities, but it’s family more than employer here,” says Tyler Peartree, manager at the company’s Oconomowoc location. Peartree, now 31, has spent nearly half of his life working for the Garlocks. “Dan has been a business mentor, a life mentor and it’s never felt like a business, it’s all about me as an individual and how they can help me improve.”

Life Outside the Shop

You can’t have a conversation with the Garlocks or any of their employees without work-life balance coming up relatively quickly. It’s a core tenet that Dan has worked to make a pillar of the company.

Using OfficeVibe, a product that allows the company to send weekly anonymous surveys to its employees, Garlock was able to see how important work-life balance is to the team. So, he decided all training and meetings would happen during normal shop hours. And if they needed to close down to conduct the sessions, they will. 

“We never took a step backward when we went from [being open] seven days to five days, so why can't we be shut down for a couple hours every so often for training? We wanted to show we were hearing their feedback,” Garlock says. 

The work-life balance has been pivotal for Peartree. A 14-year National Guardsman, Peartree has been sent on several deployments over his tenure, always with the guarantee of returning to his job after. Furthermore, Peartree says any conversation with Garlock was never about the business, and solely about Peartree and how he was doing.

Employees as Brand Ambassadors

That dedication to valuing employee time has reverberated throughout the organization and has led to few hiring issues over the last several years. Garlock constantly gets recommendations on new writers and techs to hire when positions open up. 

Austin Hill was one of those recommendations; he left a service writing position at a dealership and just a few months into his tenure, he’s already recommended several of his former co-workers to Garlock. The company has already hired one of them.

“It’s not something I feel I need to do,” Hill says, “I just want to tell people how much I like working here and naturally people become interested.”

The Importance of “You”

Throughout conversations with employees, Garlock and his leadership team want to make their purpose clear. Garlock meets with his managers bi-weekly, and those location managers meet one-on-one with each employee weekly. In those meetings, the focus is on the employee, and what they need and want. 

“It’s all about you,” Peartree says. “It’s not about the supervisor's agenda; it’s about yours.” 

Garlock also heavily invests in training. Several members of his leadership team are in ATI’s executive groups, location managers get bi-weekly training from an ATI coach, and Garlock himself is in the ATI CEO program. They’ve also had Transformers Institute come in to train. 

Garlock has grown the company to four locations because of the internal growth, the organized training and individualized nurturing that fosters the culture. In fact, the impetus for adding shops was to provide more advancement opportunities for team members.

“Honestly, the challenge for me is keeping up with the growth,” Garlock says, “but that’s a good problem to have.”

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